Women and the Ideal Society

Plato's "Republic" and Modern Myths of Gender


In Book V of Plato's Republic, Socrates proposed that in an ideal society the most capable men and women must rule together equally. But as Natalie Harris Bluestone demonstrates in this cogent study, for generations the most influential classicists, historians of philosophy, and political theorists have ignored or rejected the idea of Philosopher Queens--of women serving as equal partners in the guiding of a just society. She also argues that in recent years many feminist writers, while correcting previous misconceptions, have allowed their sexual politics to distort their discussion of Plato's text.

In confronting both male and female biases, Bluestone addresses some of the most debated issues of our time. She questions whether women have special qualities that make them naturally better or worse equipped for leadership than men, arguing convincingly against sociobiological views of gender differences. In defending the predominance of reason as the arbiter of excellence and the key to justice, she offers a spirited critique of current feminist theory. Her writing is personal, sometimes humorous, and yet rigorously analytic, as she reveals the difficulties inherent in philosophical discussions involving gender, the prevalence in the academy of discrimination against women, and the continuing importance of the issues Plato raised in the Republic.

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